Experts say cruise industry starting to recover

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm •  Published: February 6, 2013
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But after the accident, "people who were thinking about cruising but who'd never done it before took a step back," Spencer Brown said, adding that ads that had been planned for 2012 geared to the new-to-cruising market were pulled. "They changed the marketing stance back to the people who already cruise and who understand that this tragedy was an anomaly," Spencer Brown said.

The good news, said Paul Motter of CruiseMates.com, is that "many predicted the anniversary would mean a drop in sales this January, but I think it passed largely unnoticed."

Motter said the impact of the Concordia was worse in Europe and still hangs over the market there "because that was where it happened, it got far more publicity there, and it was a European cruise line (Costa) marketed to Europeans. The worst part is that it only adds to the chill hanging over Mediterranean cruises in 2013," which have also been hurt by political strife in North Africa and the bad economy in Greece, Spain and Italy.

A report issued in November 2012 by PhoCusWright, the global travel market research company, said the cruise industry continued to grow in 2012, but at a much slower pace than the 10 percent growth rate of 2010 and the 7 percent growth rate of 2011. PhoCusWright said revenues for the industry would "rise only 4 percent in 2012 ... as the challenge of recent years — the U.S. recession, the European financial crisis, and high airfares — remain unresolved and have been compounded by the worst shipwreck in recent memory."

High airfares depress cruising because many cruisers fly to the port of embarkation for their ship.

PhoCusWright's forecasts for cruising for 2013 and 2014 are better: 6 and 7 percent respectively.

Spencer Brown said one positive thing to emerge from the Concordia disaster was improvements in safety, for example more attention being paid to emergency drills. Prior to the accident, international conventions dictated that the drills, called muster drills, be held within 24 hours of embarkation. Since then, members of the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents most major cruise companies in North America and many international companies as well, have agreed to conduct the drills before ships leave port. If guests happen to board after the drill takes place, they will be given individual or group briefings.

"One of the things that was so tragic about the Concordia was, they were planning to do the drill the next morning," Spencer Brown said. "People got on board that day who didn't know where the emergency exits were."

She added: "Cruises were safe but now they are safer."

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Follow AP Travel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AP_Travel .



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